Friday, May 2, 2008

The Scent of a Sylphid ~Debut by DelRae: fragrance review

Like watching the prima ballerina dancing the night away en pointe during La Sylphide there often comes the realisation that behind such delicate artistry and graceful elegance there must be an insurmountable amount of toil and wistful spending of self. Noticing the details of the Marius Petipa choreography I never cease to wonder how the strength of those calves supporting the dancer's weight is so effortlessly flowing into an optical legato of sorts that defies the laws of gravity and strain to give the sense of fluidity, like that of a forest spirit.
Just like a forest sprite, a lily-of-the-valley-centered fragrance is tied to the deceptivy intense work behind nature's spring rites, to reverie and daydreaming among the green foliage, shaded by a passing cloud that tentatively sprinkles the countryside with dew. Début by San Fransico-based niche line Parfums DelRae is one such fragrance: ethereal, sylph-like, effortlessly impressive and with the dewiness of a fine spring morning veering into summer.
Created in 2004, Début is characterised by DelRae as "Youthful yet sophisticated. Charming and utterly beguiling".

Nose Michel Roudnitska had hard work ahead, much like the ballerina aforementioned, if only because his formidable father, the great Edmond Roudnitska, has composed what is assuredly the archetype lily of the valley fragrance, Diorissimo, among his other magnificent Dior creations. He had cultivated lily of the valley attentively and tenderly in his own garden to study the elusive aroma so as to replicate it as closely as possible through synthesis and he managed to infuse it with the merest hint of civet that gives an delicious surprise in the drydown phase of the extrait de parfum.
Michel however avoided the trap of imitating and thus trying to "gild refined gold, to paint the lily". Instead as if seen through the lens of a Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III, lily of the valley takes on a modern sensibility in Début that allows it to be wearable even if one is not wearing a sylph-like gown of white.
Alternating between a soapy element, the cooling greeness, the innocence of linden blossoms and the radiance of white flowers (without the headiness usually associated with them), Début feels as if a scintillating scotoma has been lifted and you can see clearly for the first time. Sweet warmth of what smells like beeswax absolute to me, intermingled with the suaveness of sandalwood, lingers seductively to lull me into a daydream of lying in the fields before donning the urban attire again for a round in the busy metropolis.

Notes: bergamot, lime, green leaves, lily of the valley, ylang ylang, vetiver, sandalwood and musk.

Début used to come in Eau de Toilette and Eau de Parfum concentration. Eau de Toilette was abandoned for Eau de Parfum in 2006, but sometimes bottles of the former can still be found. They're both excellent and equally tenacious.
Parfums DelRae are available at Aedes, Barneys and First in Fragrance. You can also call: Tel 415 441 1627 • 866 906 9901. Or Fax 415-673-9828. Or email:

Painting The Black Shash by Giovanni Boldini courtesy of Pic of bottle from parfumsdelrae.
Clip La fille aux cheveux de lin (=the girl with flaxen hair) by Claude Debussy performed by Joshua Bell, originally uploaded by airplanelova 93 on Youtube


  1. Oh Helg, you are very much making me feel guilty in that I have not tested the perfume houses from my own home area, Ineke, Parfums DelRae, and Mandy Aftel. I need to amend this issue soon. Love the music and picture you chose. For me Lily of the Valley is the scent of me from 12 to 14. I had this perfume oil called, Rain, and the main note was Lily of the Valley, and I remember me and my girlfriends rather worshiping this scent. We always put it on when were going out.

  2. OK, Jen, do feel guilty! Very guilty! *stern look*

    LOL! You should try them out, they're very good lines!

    I thought Debut, debutante, ball, ball gown and the painting followed...and the music is tied to my mind with daydreaming and a warm day in spring, so....

    I love your childhood and early adolescence memory of "Rain": isn't it fabulous when we have something like that to transport us right back?

  3. I'm chuckling here, because I am wearing a scent called "Rain" right this minute--from The Fragrance Shop in New Orleans. Some of us never outgrow our adolescent tastes ;-)

    I can't believe I haven't tracked on Debut until now, LOTV fanatic that I am. Everything about it sounds wonderful, especially the combination of linden blossom with the lily. You certainly know how to tempt your readers, E.

  4. I love this scent- but it is very loud on me.
    I mean, a SCREAMER, lol.
    Doesn't stop me from loving it-
    But it DOES prevent me from wearing it.

    Gorgeous visuals, and music.
    What a treat !

  5. Début is the one I like most from DelRae, it is well done but did not really wow me. Oh I would have loved to see through a lens sitting on a Mark III.

  6. Dear M,

    thanks for saying so. If I tempt I hope it's for a good cause. I believe the whole DelRae line is excellent. Nicely done, you know?
    Your Rain sounds like fun!

  7. Thanks dear I :-)
    Ah...well, perhaps it is a little potent, true. But then you do have other loves you wear admirably.

  8. Dear L,
    I am sure you will find something else to take your fancy, then.
    But as you say, well-done!

  9. Anonymous02:54

    I love the DelRae line, Amoureuse being my favorite. I've been told by Ms. Delrae that thier should be three new ones coming out in fall, xmas and next spring. Happy days ahead!

  10. Thank you for your comment Perfumequeen, nice to see you here :-)
    I also love Amoureuse, maybe later on a review on that one is coming. I like the whole line in fact!

    That's excellent news for us to anticipate, thank you very much!


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